Spaceballs: 35 Things You Never Knew About The Classic Star Wars Parody
Mel Brooks' Spaceballs is now streaming on Netflix. Here are some Easter eggs you might have missed.
In 1987, Mel Brooks directed and released Spaceballs, his send-up of all things Star Wars. It received a mixed reception at the time--many critics compared it unfavorably to his previous comedy classics like The Producers and Young Frankenstein. But three decades removed, Spaceballs has come to be recognized as a comedy classic in its own right. It may not have the satirical brilliance of Blazing Saddles, but even its silliest jokes elicit a chuckle.
Spaceballs also has a distinct advantage: the ubiquity of its source material. Every new generation that discovers Star Wars also discovers the larger subculture surrounding it. And Spaceballs has become a beloved part of the Star Wars culture, in no small part because Star Wars creator George Lucas loved the script--so much, in fact, that he lent a hand to the movie's post-production.
Here are 35 Easter eggs in Mel Brooks' Spaceballs, now streaming on Netflix. And if you liked this gallery, check out our Easter Egg roundups on Mortal Kombat, Back to the Future, and Back to the Future Part II.
1. A Long Ship
The opening scene of the movie is a parody of Episode IV's opening scene, featuring an overly long spaceship. The spaceship is a practical effect; the real-life model is 17 feet long, and Grant McCune, who worked on the models and practical effects for Star Wars Episode IV, helped design this ship as well.
2. Dark Helmet
Rick Moranis plays Dark Helmet, a parody of Darth Vader. Moranis is also famous for his roles as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, Louis Tully in Ghostbusters, and Wayne Szalinski in Honey, I Shrunk The Kids!. Moranis semi-retired from acting in 1997, and Brooks has said that he would not consider a Spaceballs sequel without Moranis. In a 2013 interview, Moranis claimed that he and Brooks discussed a possible sequel, but the discussions fell apart due to budget concerns.
3. Comedy Legend
Stand-up comedy legend Joan Rivers plays the voice of Dot Matrix, a parody of Star Wars droid C-3PO. Rivers was not in the actual suit. Mime artist Lorene Yarnell performed the droid's movement.
4. Can We Talk?
Dot Matrix says Joan Rivers' signature catchphrase--"Can we talk?"--at the beginning of the movie. During her comedy routines, Rivers typically employed this line right before launching into one of her signature rants.
5. Limited Improv
The late, great John Candy plays Barf, a broad parody of Chewbacca. According to Bill Pullman (who plays Lone Starr), Candy was frustrated with his costume; his ears and tail were both remote-controlled, which gave him less opportunities to improvise and ad-lib the way he wanted to.
6. Dr. Jones, I Presume?
This shot of Bill Pullman taking a nap with his hat over his eyes is a tribute to Steven Spielberg and George Lucas' character Indiana Jones, who often sleeps in the same pose.
7. A Mel Brooks Stand-By
Dom DeLuise plays the role of Pizza the Hutt. DeLuise is a frequent Brooks collaborator who appeared in six of the director's films, starting with Twelve Chairs and ending with Robin Hood: Men In Tights.
The main headquarters of Planet Spaceball has a rotunda that is modeled after that of the U.S. Capitol Building.
9. All Hail Skroob!
Mel Brooks plays the role of President Skroob, the corrupt leader of the Spaceballs. Skroob, you might notice, is an anagram of Brooks. Brooks also plays the role of Yogurt, a parody of Jedi master Yoda.
10. Snotty Beamed Me Twice!
The character Snotty is based on the character Montgomery "Scotty" Scott from the original Star Trek television series. Both characters have exaggerated Scottish accents and serve as engineers of their respective ships.
11. Double Your Pleasure
Doublemint Gum has a longstanding advertising campaign that features female twins and the slogan, "Double your pleasure/Double your fun/It's the right one/The Doublemint gum!" Denise and Dian Gallup, who performed in the Doublemint commercials, poked fun at themselves in this scene with Brooks, where his character dismissively tells them, "Chew your gum."
12. The Man of 10,000 Sound Effects
Michael Winslow plays the Radar Technician who makes the "bleep," "sweep," and "creep" sounds. Winslow is most famous for performing in all seven Police Academy films, where he puts his considerable vocal talents on display.
13. Space Invaders Tribute
There is a Space Invaders pinball machine in the back of Lone Starr's ship. It was released by Bally in 1980, two years after the release of the Space Invaders arcade game.
14. Trippy Colors
The color patterns when Spaceball One hits Ludicrous Speed are similar to the ones in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, when Bowman travels across space via a multi-colored wormhole.
15. Desert Royalty
The desert scene in Spaceballs employs a musical cue from the 1962 epic film Lawrence of Arabia, which is famous for its long, sweeping vista shots of the Arabian desert.
16. An Entire Filmography
When the Spaceballs are searching for the VHS cassette of Spaceballs, you can see Mel Brooks' other films on the shelf: The Producers, Twelve Chairs, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie, High Anxiety, History of the World: Part One, and To Be Or Not To Be. You can also see multiple Rocky sequels, which go all the way up to Rocky XIV.
17. Crew Cameo
The assistant director, Mitchell Bock, cameos as the Spaceball who fast-forwards and rewinds the Spaceballs VHS cassette.
18. Anti-Nazi Aliens
The Dinks are humming a tune called the "Colonel Bogey March," which became popular during World War II, when Allied soldiers devised lyrics that made fun of the Nazi leadership. It goes, "Hitler has only got one ball/Göring has two but very small/Himmler is rather similar/But poor old Goebbels has no balls at all." It was also used in the 1958 film The Bridge on the River Kwai as a song of rebellion and non-conformity.
19. Off To See The Wizard
Spaceballs has two different homages to The Wizard of Oz. The first one is this scene, where our heroes meet Yogurt for the first time. The massive Yogurt statue is reminiscent of "Oz, The Great and Terrible." Dot Matrix stands in for the Tin Man. Princess Vespa stands in for Dorothy. And Barf stands in for the Cowardly Lion.
20. Merchandising Rights
Brooks pokes gentle fun at George Lucas' love of Star Wars merchandising by showing a variety of fake Spaceballs merchandise throughout the movie. There's Yogurt's gift shop, of course, but later on, you see Spaceballs-branded towels in the bathrooms, and Spaceballs-branded placemats in the diner. However, Lucas was firm that there not be any real Spaceballs merchandise on store shelves, lest it be confused with Star Wars merchandise.
21. A Common Combination
The combination for access to Planet Druidia's atmosphere is "1-2-3-4-5." Although this sounds like a really stupid idea, it's more common than you might think. A study conducted in 2014 listed "1-2-3-4-5" as the third most common password among 3.3 million leaked passwords. In first place was "1-2-3-4-5-6." In second place was "password."
22. Yiddish Pun
Dark Helmet tells the plastic surgeon who's making out with a nurse to "go back to the golf course and work on your putts." In Yiddish, "putz" is vulgar slang for "penis."
23. Hitler In A Dress
Mel Brooks has made a career out of mocking Adolph Hitler. You'll notice that in this scene, the stuntman for Princess Vespa has a Hitler-style moustache. In the years since World War II, the toothbrush moustache has decreased in popularity thanks to its negative associations.
24. Wilhelm Scream
The last Spaceball that Princess Vespa shoots in the hallway lets out a Wilhelm Scream, a common sound clip that's been used in over 400 films and TV shows since 1952. Star Wars helped to popularize the Wilhelm Scream, which an Imperial Stormtrooper let out when he fell down the Death Star shaft.
25. Improv Doll Play
The scene where Dark Helmet roleplays with his dolls was improvised by actor Rick Moranis. Moranis credits George Wyner, who plays Colonel Sandurz, for making the scene as good as it is.
Right before Spaceball One transforms into Mega Maid, Dark Helmet says, "Ready, Kafka?" This is a reference to the novella "Metamorphosis," written by Franz Kafka, in which a man wakes up to find he's transformed into a giant cockroach.
27. Founder Of The Vulcan Neck Pinch
The fictional Vulcan neck pinch that Lone Starr attempts to use was conceived by Leonard Nimoy, who played Commander Spock on the original Star Trek television series. He was scripted to club someone over the head with the butt of a phaser, but Nimoy felt that such an action would be out of character for a Vulcan in the 24th century.
28. George Lucas' Blessing
You'll notice while watching the movie that the special effects look quite good. That's because George Lucas' special effects company, Industrial Light & Magic, did the post-production for this movie. Talk about being a good sport.
29. Self-Destruct Voice
The voice on the self-destruct sequence belongs to Julie Pitkanen, who was the film's script supervisor.
30. Falcon Cameo
If you look closely at the establishing shot of the diner, you can see the Millennium Falcon docked in the parking lot.
31. John Hurt Cameo.
During the diner scene, the filmmakers got John Hurt to reprise his role as the chestburster victim from Alien (1979). That's why he exclaims, "Oh no, not again!" right before he dies.
32. My Ragtime Gal
The alien sings "Hello! Ma Baby," a Tin Pan Alley tune from 1899. It was made famous by the Warner Bros. cartoon "One Froggy Evening," in which Michigan J. Frog sings it while doing a high-kick dance with a cane and hat.
33. Wicked Witch
When he disappears at the end of the movie, Yogurt yells out, "What a world! What a world!" This is a reference to the Wizard of Oz. When the Wicked Witch of the West dissolves and dies after Dorothy splashes her with water, these are some of her last words.
34. Minister Cameo
The acerbic minister who presides over the wedding between Lone Starr and Princess Vespa is played by Ronny Graham, who co-wrote the screenplay with Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan.
35. Planet of the Apes Homage
The head of the Mega Maid crash lands on the beach of an ape-inhabited planet. This is a homage to the ending of Planet of the Apes (1968), when (spoiler alert) Charlton Heston's character realizes the alien planet he's on is Earth, post-nuclear apocalypse.
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